How to get over a fear of flying – Part Two

You may want to read this post on How to get over a fear of flying – Part One, before reading on.

I took my first flight today in around 3 years, and it’s safe to say I was crapping myself the whole day. All of my travels over the past 12 months since I started travelling full-time have been completely by land & sea. I made a decision in my head around 3 years ago after a bit of a turbulent flight to Zaragoza that I would never take another flight again. I honestly never thought I would go back on this decision, and at times I’ve paid way more than the price of a flight, taking sometimes triple the journey time, just to avoid getting on a plane. However, it was finally money that made me buckle, and say to myself “it’s time to face my fear”.

If travel by land & sea was the same price as a cheap budget air flight then I would never have got on another plane again! However, during this current off-peak winter season in Europe which has just begun, I was faced with either paying 25 Euros for a flight, or more than 250 Euros to travel the whole way to south of Spain by rail and/or bus. I could have cut down that figure slightly for overland travel, but it would have meant travelling on dates that didn’t particularly suit for not much of a saving. I was literally faced with paying 10 times the amount to travel if I didn’t want to take a flight. Then there is also the factor that it took me less than 3 hours to fly from Scotland, and it would have taken me around 30 – 48 hours if I went by bus and train without stopping.

I began to think of all the transport and accommodation I could purchase with that extra cash that I would lose if I didn’t take the flight. It was a real realisation that I was letting my fear stop me from travelling, because the more money you have, the longer you can travel. Also, I travel to live every moment of my life to the fullest. Sitting for an extra 45 hours on public transportation that I don’t need to is hardly doing that. It can be described as nothing but a waste of my time… unless I’m saving money.

So I booked the flight, I got on it, and I arrived in Malaga Airport just under 3 hours later a little shaken, but to be honest, not as bad as I thought I would be. I was lucky in that we had next to no turbulence the whole way there, but there were a few things which definitely helped that I thought I would share on here for anyone of a similar disposition. None of these involved taking sleeping pills, alcohol, or anything remotely medication based/mind altering.

Mind Distraction

I’ve tried in the past to distract myself on planes and it’s been no use. This was because I was trying distract myself by reading airplane magazines, safety notices, or random magazines I had brought along. My mind always wandered back to the fact we were 33,000 feet up in the air, and the images of the plane hurtling towards the ground came screaming into my head. Reading for me is too easy to become distracted from. Also, if you’re reading something you’re not that interested in, that’s not captivating in itself, then you’re mind is easily going to wander anyway. On a plane that wandering goes back to the most pressing matter, of the thing you are trying not to think about.

I brought my laptop. As soon as take-off was over I had it out, and was working on writing an ebook. I’m a work-aholic when I’m passionate about what I’m doing. This blog, and anything that stems from it is something that keeps me zoned into my computer most days of the week. I won’t lie. There was the occasional moment while working that I did find my mind wander to what’s outside, but for the most part I became consumed on writing the book. The fact that it is something I was genuinely interested in, I feel, was what made me focus in on it, instead of thinking about what’s outside. I also shut my window shutter for the entirety of the time too once in the air. It helped me block out the fact I was on a plane, and not let my peripheral vision distract me from the task at hand – my book.

My battery died with around an hour and half to go. There was a slight bit of panic as this happened, but I quickly whipped out my Spanish dictionary, grammar book, notepad and pen. I began writing out grammar, words, and just generally trying to improve my Spanish on board. I think the act of doing something, i.e. writing things down, helped to keep my mind focused on the task at hand rather than my fears because it’s harder to let your mind wander when you are physically doing something. When you’re simply reading or listening to music, your mind can wander more easily. At least for me anyway…

Just do it

At the end of the day, there is nothing that will take away your fear completely. I deliberately chose a flight that wasn’t long haul. I’m not sure I would have had the balls to get on the first one if I knew it would last an age. If you’re like me, and you want to conquer your fear, start small. Do a one hour flight somewhere. See how you go. Anyone can distract themselves for an hour if they really want to. Once you have got the first one over with you will fell relieved. Trust me. If you really feel like it was terrible then you never have to get on one again. It was only an hour of your life.

The key thing to remember is that airplane crashes are extremely unlikely. It’s much more dangerous to go out driving in your car, if you want to put it into perspective. I know saying those things doesn’t make a huge difference when you think “yeah, but what if I’m in one of the planes that DOES crash”. Also, the reality is that if you crash in a plane and you crash in a car, you’re likelihood of surviving a car crash is much more likely, but somewhere in you you have to rise above these thoughts. You could go out one day and get stabbed by someone trying to rob you. Yet, even if you live in a bad area, I would put money on it that it’s not something you think about everyday, if really ever. You know the likelihood of something like that happening is so slim, so it doesn’t enter your day to day thoughts or worry you. I’m trying to retrain my mind to think like that about flying. Hopefully, if you’re scared of flying, you’ll be able to too. Just book a flight and do it! I did, and I can tell you it’s actually not so bad.

2 Responses to “How to get over a fear of flying – Part Two”

  1. Congrats to you!
    The first thing I do when I get into a plane is shut the shutter. I am afraid too! Distraction usually helps when I have more than one distraction. So, I’ll work on my laptop and listen to music at the same time. Or talk to my neighbor while flopping through a magazine. Though, take offs are the worst! I need a solution for them 😉

    • jane says:

      Thanks! Feeling a lot better now I have got it out of the way. I’m the same as you with take-offs though. Nothing seems to make them better! 😉

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